Why *would* you ride a bike? The UK experience

In my post yesterday on my partner’s first use of a bike in over 20 years, I mentioned how the street she first rode along, Biltstraat, was a busy road, connecting Utrecht’s ring road to the centre of town.

I decided to take a look at the conditions on an equivalent road in my town, Horsham. This is the Bishopric (also the Guildford A281 road), that is the main arterial route, from the west, into the town.

This photograph shows the end of this wide road, at the point, looking east, where it meets the pedestrianized centre of Horsham. The video below shows the conditions on this road, at 8:50 this morning.

No cyclists, despite this being (you would think) around the peak time for cycle commuting.

Further out of town on this road, there is a ‘cycle path’. But it is narrow, simply painted on the pavement.

The area to the left is for pedestrians, to the right is the cycle path – two-way! And yes, you have to give way (with dangerously limited vision, I might add) at every side road.

The cycle path simply stops at the traffic lights shown below, as you head into town. You have to cross here, and then brave cycling on the road itself.

Cycling into town, once you have got to the lights at the video, you meet Albion Way, the inner ring road of Horsham. You either have to turn left, onto this –

Or right, onto this –

There is – notionally – a 30 mph limit on this road, but in my experience most drivers treat it as a ‘proper’ dual carriageway. Speeding is rife.

Note also that this is a deeply hostile junction for pedestrians, with ‘holding pens.’ If I want to make it to the pedestrianized centre of Horsham, which lies to the left of the above picture, I have to make FOUR separate road crossings, from the point where I am standing. This is what a cyclist would have to do if – logically – they wanted to go straight into town, and dismounted at this point.

Furthermore, this is the junction at which a female cyclist was seriously injured last year when she was ‘in collision with a van.’ I notice that someone recently seems to have ‘lost control’ and crashed into the barriers on the central island, judging by their deformed nature.

Is this a good environment for cycling? Would using a bicycle on these roads be an attractive alternative to using them by car? Because these are exactly the kinds of roads and junctions you have to cycle on if you want to get anywhere in Horsham. And Horsham residents are voting with their feet. Journeys by bicycle make up only 1% of the total number of journeys made here. It’s not hard to see why.

At the end of our ride in Utrecht, my partner asked – ‘Why wouldn’t you ride a bike?’

Well, with conditions for cycling like this in my town, I can think of an alternative question.

Why would you ride a bike?

This entry was posted in Cycling policy, Horsham, Infrastructure, Road safety, Town planning. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Why *would* you ride a bike? The UK experience

  1. Matt Steel says:

    As a Horsham resident and cyclist I can honestly say the cycle facilities in the town lack consistency. Many of them seem to have been designed by a committee with conflicting ideas about what cyclists ought to do.

    I would love to get some of the team who put these paths and signs in place and ask them to cycle the routes they have created. Some cycle paths deliver cyclists to dead ends, there is a Toucan crossing where cyclists are asked to dismount and several routes where cyclists are expected to dismount frequently walk their bike two yards and then remount.

    • stabiliser says:

      I am certainly well aware of the ‘frequent dismount’ route by Sainsbury’s roundabout, which is frankly atrocious. I am sure there are many more like it.

      The other serious problem is a complete lack of permeability across the town centre. You cannot progress from north to south, or east to west, on a bicycle, without either multiple dismounts and walking for some distance, or using Albion Way, which is no place for a nervous cyclist. The Carfax is a good walking environment, but when they redesigned it in the 90s, cyclists were completely forgotten about.

  2. Interesting idea – in Newcastle we’re running a City Chiefs’ Cycling Challenge to do just that – get people who are high-up officials and elected members of the council to try out the infrastructure for themselves. Of course, the risk is that they’ll do the usual politician’s thing of publicly claiming that it’s all just perfect (and that black is white, etc), but there’s a chance we’ll have got under their skins with the deeply scary nature of much of British so-called cycling infrastructure.

    • stabiliser says:

      That is a good idea. I don’t think West Sussex County Council would be able to claim that everything is perfect here, because their own LTP3 states that

      “The current provision of pedestrian and cycling facilities throughout the District, and in particular within Horsham, are not sufficient to support and maintain sustainable travel. This is because much of the network is disjointed and suffers from inadequate signing, safe crossing points and poor surfacing.”

      (See here.)

      Which is refreshingly honest. It would be nice if they planned to do something about improving it.

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